America's Best Turkey Trots
By: Jenny Willden
If you thought Thanksgiving was all about food and football, think again. Turkey trots have recently become as synonymous with the holiday as pumpkin pie as a growing number of Americans lace up their sneakers to burn a few calories before gobbling up a Thanksgiving meal.
Thanks to the family- and beginner-friendly nature of turkey trots, runners of all ability levels feel welcome, turning Thanksgiving Day into the most popular racing day of the year. And with many trots boasting a charity component, joining in is an easy way to give back. Earn your turkey dinner at one of these 10 great Thanksgiving Day races across America.
1. The Pilgrim 5K
Celebrate Thanksgiving like it's 1621 at this 5K race where "historically inaccurate" pilgrim costumes (think buckle hats and bonnets) come standard with your entry fee. Dash through the aptly named Thanksgiving Point golf course and past iconic pilgrim scenes before sprinting to the finish at Plymouth Rock. Warm up afterward with free hot apple cider and pumpkin bars. Top finishers and age-group winners go home with homemade pumpkin pies.
2. YMCA Turkey Trot
Buffalo, New York
Celebrating its 123rd year running in 2019, this race dates back to 1896 and is the oldest consecutively run footrace in North America. Over 14,000 competitors will toe the starting line this Turkey Day, ranging from competitive athletes to rookie runners, all racing eight kilometers (4.97 miles) through downtown Buffalo.
Participants come from around America, and even across the pond, to compete in this historic event, which ends with a live band, refreshments, and adult beverages. In recent years, the costume contest has become central to the experience with racers young and old dressing as everything from turkeys to superheroes.
3. Pensacola Beach Turkey Trot for Thought
Pensacola Beach, Florida
Pensacola's pristine white sand beaches and sparkling blue water makes this Florida Panhandle town the perfect Thanksgiving destination for escaping the cold. Kick off the day with a 5K run at Casino Beach, dash along Santa Rosa Sound and the Gulf of Mexico, and race back to the start for a hearty runner's breakfast. Adults can cheers to the finish with complimentary mimosas and beer served with beachfront views.
With just over 1,000 participants coming from around the United States, this race is on the intimate side and welcoming to families with young kids. Before the 5K, littles get their own 200-yard Turkey Dash. All race proceeds are donated to Duke University's Preston Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Center.
4. Las Vegas Turkey Trot
Boulder City, Nevada
Celebrating Thanksgiving Sin City-style? Kick off the day with a scenic race beyond the Strip in neighboring Boulder City—about 18 miles from Las Vegas. Choose your distance: half marathon, 12K, 5K, or 1-miler, and run or walk it on the Historic Railroad Trail. Half marathoners tackle the rail trail's six tunnels while 12K racers run through five before both reach views of Hoover Dam. Every course showcases views of Lake Mead, one of the largest man-made lakes in the world, as you run on packed dirt trails.
5. Feaster Five Thanksgiving Day Road Race
Run one of the largest Thanksgiving Day races in New England at Andover’s Feaster Five—a 5-mile or 5K road race—that's been run annually since 1987. Every year 9,000 finishers go home with an apple pie to complete their Thanksgiving meal, and considering that about 10,000 people participate, your odds of getting one are pretty good.
Kids ages 12 and under get their own races before the main event at age-grouped dashes ranging from 100-600 yards. Participating adults and kids go home with a cozy race hoodie.
6. Dallas YMCA Turkey Trot
Everything's bigger in Texas; so it's no surprise that Dallas' turkey trot is the country's largest Thanksgiving Day event with 40,000 participants projected to attend. But it wasn't always popular! Fifty years ago, the race started with 107 participants instructed to run "to the big oak tree and back," establishing the trot's unique eight-mile distance.
Since its founding, the location has changed and shorter distance races added to welcome casual runners and families alike. Dress as a turkey to fit in with the crowd, and choose from 8-mile, 5K, and Junior Trot 1K race distances. Proceeds support community programs from the YMCA of Metropolitan Dallas.
7. Strategic Staffing Solutions Detroit Turkey Trot
Nicknamed the "Parade Before the Parade" this race kicks off in downtown Detroit before America's Thanksgiving Parade—bringing more than 18,000 runners to race a 10K, 5K, or Mashed Potato Mile. A Michigan tradition for the past 35 years, spectators line the course and thousands of runners show up in costume. Challenge yourself and complete two races in a day with the Drumstick Double (10K + 5K) or the Cranberry Combo (1-mile + 5K). Stay afterward to watch floats, giant balloons, and even Santa parade by.8.
8. 41st Annual Dana Point Turkey Trot
Dana Point, California
Spend Thanksgiving morning on the beach for the 41st edition of this So Cal classic run. Choose from 5K, 10K, and kids' (ages 4–12) one-mile Gobble Wobble race, all set along Dana Point's beautiful harbor and Doheny State Beach.
Earn your mashed potatoes and gravy by doubling up on the 10K and 5K, which start 2.5 hours apart. Afterward, grab your finisher's medal and a brew at the post-race beer garden. You can also attend a health and wellness expo the night before and on race day, before ending the event with a festive costume contest.
9. Run to Feed the Hungry
Help feed hungry families at this Sacramento Thanksgiving Day event that's grown over its 25-year history. Starting with 796 participants its inaugural year, the run boasted a whopping 29,604 participants in 2017—making it one of the nation's largest Thanksgiving Day fun runs. Uniquely, participants can sign up and wait to choose between the 5K or 10K until race day.
And since it's hosted by the Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services, you can feel good knowing that the money goes directly to feeding the area's hungry families.
10. 45th Annual Mile High United Way Turkey Trot
Join more than 20,000 participants on a 4-mile fun run past the towering trees and sparkling lakes of Washington Park. A Denver Thanksgiving Day tradition since 1973, this run at altitude raises funds that support United Way's work in the Mile-High City. Sign up early to receive a shirt, and stick around after the finish for craft brews from Great Divide at the beer garden finish.
No matter which race you do, there's no better way to kick off Thanksgiving than with a run.